The Cult: Hidden City Live, Kansas City

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Editor’s Note: While blogging about drinking and rock and roll is OK, blogging while drinking and listening to rock and roll isn’t always great… We’ll try to restrain Mr. B&V from his drunken, ecstatic post-concert ramblings, like those below, but we can’t guarantee anything…

Man, what a shitty week I was having… and then live rock n roll happens and everything is ok…

I took the Rock Chick out tonight to see the Cult on what was our second show on the “Alive In The Hidden City Tour” tonight… our first show was in Chicago back in, I believe April or maybe March. What a difference 5 months can prove to be. Many of the same songs were played, but in a much different order and with a lot looser approach. Noticeably missing was “Dark Energy” which is the first song on “Hidden City” and was the opening song in Chicago…

We stood next to a couple of guys, Sean and Terence who hadn’t seen the Cult since the “Sonic Temple” tour, many years ago. It was great to meet two guys who were inspired by Billy Duffy to pick up the guitar and start a band. I may have had way too much vodka tonight but as I write this I’m pretty sure I’m still going to be impressed by all of this in the morning. Wow, what a healing experience a concert is. All the tension I was feeling is gone now.

The Cult were loose and clearly having fun. This was the first show I’d seen them from up in a balcony, instead of down on the floor amongst the masses. The difference in viewpoint was startling. Billy Duffy was just man-handling the guitar tonight and I mean that in a good way. From my elevated view point I could see Ian Astbury and the joyous dancing he was doing. He was more animated than I’d seen him since the “Beyond Good and Evil” tour when I first saw these guys live. Tonight’s show may have even topped that first Cult show on “BGE” but that may be the vodka talking.

Highlights for me tonight were “Deeply Ordered Chaos” and “GOAT” (the first encore tune) from the new album. These are tunes that they should play in every show from now on. I also liked the loose, jammy version of “Sweet Soul Sister” they played, but I should mention the Rock Chick doesn’t like that sort of thing, and was vocal about Ian’s loose approach tonight. I thought it was great, but hey, I’m full of Ketel One…. “Fire Woman” was the crowd pleaser it always is. “Rain” is another personal favorite of mine, as is “Phoenix” both from the “Love” album.

Ian, at one point, asked if we had a “rock station” in KC…and further pondered why they wouldn’t play the new Cult album. I have to ask the same question… He said he was as depraved and debauched as anybody else, why not play the Cult’s “Hidden City?” Again, I have to ask the same question. It’s great to hear hard rock played live, why not play some of that music on the damn radio…

If you haven’t already done so, pick up “Hidden City” on vinyl, CD or iTunes, and turn it up loud…

Cheers!

 

The Cult: Alive In The Hidden City, Chicago 3/24/2016

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“Ian is awfully ornery tonight” – The Rock Chick 3/24/2016

The Rock Chick and I flew up to Chicago over the weekend to catch The Cult’s “Alive In the Hidden City” tour at the Chicago House of Blues. Man, am I glad I went. As I was walking into the lobby of my hotel before the show, I ran into three guys from Decatur, Illinois. One of them, Clint, was wearing a Cult t-shirt and after my two Old Fashion lunch I felt bold so I stopped in the middle of the lobby and asked loudly, “Hey man, are you going to the show.” Oddly, after that brief interaction I couldn’t go anywhere without running into the Decatur 3. Every time I went into a bar, hit the button for an elevator, or at the actual Cult show, I ran into the guys from Decatur. They were true Cult fans, and it was very nice to meet kindred spirits.

That’s the thing about concerts. When you’re into a band, you tend to meet like minded folks at a concert. Especially a show in a smaller venue like the House of Blues. The concert begins to transcend a simple live show. There is an almost spiritual connection you have with the band and the people in the crowd. There was a guy at the show who kept holding up his lighter, that took me back to a pre-cellphone world. Standing on the floor, hands in the air, singing along with the rest of the crowd, I felt a real connection with everyone in the room. After the show Decatur Ron and I were talking about the almost spiritual/religious nature of rock concerts and he agreed with me. There is something about this new material that has The Cult charged up. The only bands I’ve seen pull that type of intimacy off in an arena setting are Springsteen, U2 and The Stones…but I digress.

I must say Friday night at the House of Blues was a special concert. I’ve seen the Cult nearly 10 times over the last 15 years and they were simply on fire Friday. Ian Astbury was more animated than I have ever seen him. He does this skip/kick dance move that has gotten rarer and rarer over the years – not Friday, he was moving like man half his age. He was engaging with the crowd, funny and extremely charismatic. When he’s on like he was Friday, he is the consummate front man. He has an almost shamanic ability to raise the level of the entire room. Friday was one of those nights. He dedicated a song to the late Ray Manzarek of the Doors, made fun of American beer for being piss, and handed out tambourines to those lucky enough to be up near the stage. And not to sound like a chick, but the guy’s hair is long again and instead of slicking it back he was letting the freak flag fly. Dressed in all black with a blazer on, he was shaking that hair all over the place. It just seemed to make it more primal. It was after he gave somebody in the audience some gentle shit for texting during “Hinterland” that the Rock Chick turned me and laughingly said, “My, my, Ian is awfully ornery tonight…” I couldn’t have summed it up any better.

From a technical standpoint, the sound was great. I could tell Billy Duffy was struggling with his first guitar, which looks like the custom Gretsch Black Falcon I’ve been reading about. After two or three songs he quickly switched over to a black Les Paul. He ended the show with that beautiful White Falcon. Ian’s vocals were high in the mix and he sounded great. His voice was strong and very full. You can tell he’s very into this new material, and it has really put a lot of steam in his stride. The oddest thing Friday was the introduction of keyboards to the Cult’s sound. The new rhythm guitar player, who looks like he may be Rob Zombie’s illegitimate child, also doubles as a keyboard player, which was a first at a Cult show for me. The keyboard textures on the new stuff worked but inexplicably during “She Sells Sanctuary” the guy chose to play a piano figure instead of that brilliant rhythm guitar counterpoint to the main riff. It was the only sour note all night.

I was wondering how the new material off the great “Hidden City” was going to translate live. I didn’t have to wait long, as they opened with a muscular version of “Dark Energy”. Needless to say, this new stuff is awesome live. They quickly moved into “Rain” and then “Wildflower”, which was an amazing trio of songs to start the show off. After the always great “Horse Nation” they played another new song, “Hinterland” which was stunning live. About 1/3 of the show was from the new album, and the stuff just sounds great. “Deeply Ordered Chaos” was probably my favorite, but I’m pretty biased about that song. The setlist did take a left turn when they played the obscure “Gone” from “The Cult” album (aka the “Ram” album). I love it when a band goes obscure. I would have rather heard “Spanish Gold” but hey, that’s just me. “Fire Woman” made a reappearance on the set list for the first time in a very, very long time and the crowd went predictably batshit crazy for that one. After a slightly disappointing “She Sells Sanctuary” (rhythm guitar next time, not keyboards new guy), the Cult came back for a great encore with “G.O.A.T” from the new album and then a strong version of “Love Removal Machine”. The night was a tremendous mixture of new material and classic material. My only complaint is that the Cult could have added a few more tunes. I get that 90 minutes is the typical set length these days if you’re not Springsteen, but adding “Rise” or “Dirty Little Rockstar” would have been a nice add.

All in all, this was a great show. If you’re lucky enough to live in a town where the “Alive In The Hidden City Tour” is coming, I urge you strongly to get out and see the Cult. You’re in for a good old fashion, rock and roll evening. I couldn’t help thinking as I was standing on the floor of the House of Blues, I’d rather be spending the night with the Cult, who feel like old friends these days, than sitting at home. Support live music and it will support you!!

Cheers! (Setlist below)

  1. Dark Energy
  2. Rain
  3. Wildflower
  4. Horse Nation
  5. Hinterland
  6. Honey From a Knife
  7. Gone
  8. Lil Devil
  9. Birds of Paradise
  10. Deeply Ordered Chaos
  11. Sweet Soul Sister
  12. Fire Woman
  13. The Phoenix
  14. She Sells Sanctuary
  15. (Encore break) G.O.A.T.
  16. Love Removal Machine

Review: The Cult, “Hinterland”, The 3rd Song From the Upcoming “Hidden City”

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A third song, “Hinterland” from the upcoming Cult album “Hidden City” has been released and let me just say, “wow”. With all due respect to David Bowie and Elton John who both have albums coming out soon (Bowie tomorrow, Elton in February), The Cult’s “Hidden City” is my most anticipated album of 2016. I had promised myself, after reviewing the first two songs from this album as they came out, that I’d wait for the entire album’s release before I wrote anything further. This song is just too great to not comment on it.

Each of the three songs that have been released thus far feel like pieces of a puzzle. With each song the puzzle gets a little clearer. This is going to be a heavy album. Each of the songs have Billy Duffy’s trademark, enormous guitar riffs. Of the three songs thus far released, this one has the best guitar solo. I love that Duffy plays a Gretsch White Falcon…good craftsman work with good tools. If I was going to compare it to a more recent album, “Beyond Good and Evil” springs to mind. If I was to compare it to an older, classic record, from a sound perspective, I’d say “Electric”.

This record and particularly the new song “Hinterland” are not only “heavy” musically, they’re heavy lyrically as well. The chorus of “Hinterland” goes, “the dream of life is fading, each generation’s fading”. The “Dark Energy” of the lead single (reviewed previously on BourbonAndVinyl) is proving to be present in each of the subsequent singles. Another theme in the lyrics is the repeated line, “Destroy the destroyers”. Ian’s lyrics are always a bit opaque to me. I struggle for a while to discern where he’s going in his lyrics. It’s clear to me on this song, and the others, that this album is a direct warning to society. Astbury sings with a passion and clarity on this song that is hypnotic in it’s urgency.

I can not wait for this album. This song is a must have for any Cult or hard rock fans out there. Check out the new song and it’s video (available on YouTube) and as always, enjoy!

Cheers!

 

 

Review: The Cult, “Deeply Ordered Chaos”, the 2nd single from “Hidden City”

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Is this the Western dream, defend our liberty…”

For me, one of the most anticipated albums of early 2016 is “Hidden City” from the Cult, due in February. I’ve already reviewed the first single of the album, “Dark Energy” in a separate post on BourbonAndVinyl. I have to admit that even though that song has no chorus that I can discern, “Dark Energy” has really grown on me. I would have mixed Ian’s vocals a little higher in the mix, but the interplay between Billy Duffy’s (almost a hard rock Bo Diddley-like) guitar and  John Tempesta’s drums is addictive. The Cult have a history in this millennium of releasing kick-ass first singles, so “Dark Energy” had a lot to live up to in my mind.

On Monday afternoon, while still recovering from the wife’s Christmas party, much to my surprise, I discovered the Cult released a second song from “Hidden City” on iTunes entitled “Deeply Ordered Chaos”. Let me start by saying, wow. Actually listening to both songs together, I feel like I’m looking at two pieces from the same puzzle – they fit together but I’m not sure what the entire whole is going to be like. Which is great news after the slightly disjointed way they released the songs on “Choice of Weapon”, their last outing.

“Deeply Ordered Chaos” starts with a slow build. Like “Dark Energy” it starts with an epic Billy Duffy guitar riff. The riff is slower than “Dark Energy” and I would almost describe it as “ominous.” I mean that in a good way. After the slow build guitar entry, Ian Astbury’s vocals begin, “I’m a European, tears fall on the altar.”  Once I heard that, I was hooked. I really love this song. There are some restrained strings between the guitar riffs that add to that ominous vibe.

The lyrics support the darker feel of the song. Ian sings of Europe, tears on the altar, Syria must fall. In the middle of the song, he drops to a quietly spoken line, “A child of liberty opened my eyes, defend Paris…” Surely this song was written and recorded long before the heinous attacks on Paris on November 13th, but the entire vibe of the lyrics make this song a perfect backdrop to current events. When Ian sings, “Who you looking at, who you dreaming of, What you leave behind?” it evokes the current-day tension like a screaming headline. Clearly I don’t think the Cult are advocating any kind of retribution here, but are merely capturing a mood. Like all good artists they are likely reflecting the environment they find themselves in. Think Dylan in the 60’s writing “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” right before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Artists have more sensitive antennae than the rest of us.

While I was slightly disappointed with “Dark Energy”, it has grown on me quickly. “Deeply Ordered Chaos” (and by the way, I love that title) hooked me immediately. The song hit me in the lower brain stem and took hold. It’s been on high rotation here at the house for two days now. I was going to wait until the album comes out next year to comment on this song, but it’s a tune that every rock fan needs to hear. I couldn’t wait until February to say something.

Listening to both the new Cult songs together only builds my anticipation for the new album, “Hidden City”. It’ll be interesting to hear how these songs translate live. Typically I have to fly to Denver or Chicago to see the Cult. Oh sure, I’d love to fly to the UK to catch the late February/early March tour of the UK, but alas I’ll have to wait to they come state-side.

Turn this one up loud… and as always, Cheers!